Mitesh Patel Wins Two Early Career Research Abstract Awards

Mitesh Patel Wins Two Early Career Research Abstract Awards

Study Found That Rewarding Employee Wellness Efforts With Discounted Insurance Rates "Is Not Effective"

Mitesh Patel has won the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) Milton W. Hamolsky Award for the best research abstract by a Junior Investigator and the University of Pennsylvania Department of Medicine Holmes Award for Best Early Career Faculty Abstract. Both works detailed studies of the effectiveness of certain kinds of workplace wellness program incentives.

Mitesh Patel
LDI Senior Fellow Mitesh Patel's abstracts of wellness program effectiveness studies have won two awards.

The Hamolsky-honored abstract was presented at the SGIM annual meeting in Toronto, Canada; the Holmes-honored abstract at Penn's Department of Medicine Research Day.

Patel, MD, MBA, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine and Health Care Management at the Wharton School, staff physician at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, a faculty member at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, and an LDI Senior Fellow.

Weight-loss incentives
The SGIM abstract described the results of a new study of wellness program weight-loss incentives among 200 employees with a body mass index of 30 or greater of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

The work is significant because the wave of health care reform set in motion by the Affordable Care Act has heavily promoted workplace wellness programs; the latest estimates indicate 80% of large employers have implemented such programs using various sorts of incentives to motivate employees to adopt healthier behaviors.

Weight loss
Patel's SGIM abstract study compared the weight loss achievement among three subgroups of employees who were respectively offered:

- $550 off the next year's health insurance premium if the weight-loss goal was attained.

- $550 off the current year's premium as soon as the weight-loss goal was attained

- A daily lottery in which the employee had an 18% chance of winning $10 and a 1% chance of winning $100 each day as thier weight loss continued.

'Not effective'
The findings reported in the abstract were that, "workplace wellness programs designed to simulate real-world incentives through discounted health premiums were not effective for promoting weight loss over an extended one year period." Similarly, the study found that, "a daily lottery incentive unbundled from health premiums was also not effective for promoting weight loss over a one year period."

The Penn Department of Medicine abstract described the results of a different but similar study that compared incentives used to motivate three different employee sub groups to walk at least 7,000 steps a day.

The offered incentives were:

- a financial reward for successful daily performance

- loss aversion incentive in which an escrowed up-front financial reward was decreased each time the employee failed to meet performance goals

- a lottery-based financial incentive

The study found that "Among overweight obese employees, a wellness incentive designed to leverage loss aversion was significantly more effective for increasing physical activity than alternative incentive designs with the same economic value."